Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 in Review -- You have learned 100 things!

2007 is coming to a close, and as I looked at my Blogger Dashboard today, I noticed this is my 101st post. So, if you have been reading this blog since it's inception, you have (hopefully) learned 100 things! And, if you are a recent subscriber, the great thing about blogs is, that the archive is there, so it's not too late to catch up!

Some of the bloggers I have been reading (see the "More Blogs of Interest" list from Bloglines on the lower left side of this blog) are posting their "Top 10 Lists" and "End-of-the-Year" reflections for 2007, so I thought perhaps I would do the same.

I am typically not one to write deeply about issues or my personal views. The main reason I began this blog was to share information about using educational technology, that I formerly distributed via email. Blogging has also been a great "back up" for my brain. If I find a useful tool or application and write about it here, I never have to look very far to retrieve the information. And, sad to say, as I grow older, these tired brain cells seem to drop information from the memory banks much more quickly than I would like to admit.

I would like to point out, however, this has been a great year for me personally and professionally. I find it hard to put into words the gratitude and great respect I have for those who were instrumental in nominating and supporting me, as I received two incredible peer-recognition awards this year: the 2007 Outstanding Technology Using Educator award from the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE), and the 2007 Outstanding Leader award from the International Society for Techology in Education (ISTE).

I am reminded of a quote (reportedly in a letter to Robert Hooke on Feb. 15, 1676), from Sir Isaac Newton: "If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." There are truly some gigantic shoulders that have provided me with a fantastic "view" of the possibilities for reaching and teaching each and every child, and in my position as a staff developer, the adult learners in schools. I continue to be amazed at the learning made possible by technology in our very "wired-world." And, yet, with all of the tools available, I still read stories about educators who remain disconnected. How sad for them and their students. We still have a long way to go, or do we?

The good news is that we, as educators, do not need to fear attempting innovation in isolation. If I am inclined to try a new approach to teaching a topic, unit or problem, there are literally hundreds of like-minded educators available and willing to assist, only a few keystrokes away. Research has shown that in order for professional development to be successful, it must be ongoing and embedded into daily practice. I truly believe educators must model lifelong learning so that our students can witness the value of learning firsthand. Establishing professional learning communities can help make this happen. It's important to note that communities of like-minded folks can exist in-person or online. Tools commonly labeled as "Web 2.0" provide connections and collaboration in ways not possible just a year ago.

This year, I have made numerous "connections" by networking with educators using Twitter, most recently being introduced to my very generous Secret Elf (online), who I can't wait to learn more about and from. I have "attended" virtually-hosted conferences using Elluminate, and dropped in and participated in informal sharing of topics via, and have shared in kind. I have pondered why educators teach, and have attempted to pay attention to the continuing evolution of technology, and its possibilities, so that I can find the best tools for learning and teaching to share with the adults in my school. I often think of The Three Princes of Serendip, the fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” I wouldn't quite place myself in the "hero" category, although I'm amazed by the amount of valuable "learning" information I continue to stumble upon each day, thanks to the generosity of the educators in my sphere.

I can hardly imagine what the new year will bring. My hope is that learning will be great in 2008, for me, and for you and yours. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

XO = Great Learning Tool!

My OLPC XO was delivered two days ago. When I ordered the XO as part of the One Laptop Per Child's Give 1 Get 1 program, I had little idea of the learning potential of this device. The concept of providing a laptop for a child in a developing country had great appeal. The wiki supporting the XO is a great example of the learning that is possible with this device:

This is my first experience exploring Linux as an operating system. Several Linux-based programs (referred to as "Activities") such as the TamTam Jam, Turtle Art (logo programming) and Pippy are preinstalled.

Some of the keyboard keys and other hardware components are not yet functional, such as the ability to write on the trackpad with a stylus, however, many Activities and upgrades are in the works. It will be nice to have the ability to "sleep" the laptop.. a feature that reportedly will be coming soon in 2008.

The ability to fold the screen flat, and use the hardware buttons to navigate through the content is an interesting feature that is useful for reading eBooks. I have yet to explore the recording features and I am looking forward to the possibility of collaborating with other XO owners.

I had a bit of trouble connecting to the Internet using our school's visitor access point, since the browser could not authenticate the certificate, but our network manager was able to grant the access needed. Adding the device to my home network was relatively easy.

Will I use the XO for daily computing tasks? Probably not. I'm not that accustomed to the small keyboard, and I feel somewhat limited by the speed (it's not the fastest device I have used). For a child, however, this is one powerful learning tool. Kudos to the XO dreamers and developers who's mission "is to provide a means for learning, self-expression, and exploration to the nearly two billion children of the developing world with little or no access to education."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I love "feel good" stories!

I love "feel good" stories, and it seems that at this time of year, many folks devote their time to finding ways to spread a bit of "holiday cheer." While reading Will Richardson's blog today I learned about a 10-year-old child's effort to make a difference by performing random acts of kindness during the 25 days leading up to Christmas.

This might be thought of as a typical activity many youngsters engage in as part of their Sunday School lessons about Christmas and gift-giving. What is different in this instance is that Laura is sharing her efforts on a blog (with Mom's help). And, in the 9 days since Laura began her blog, she has gotten over 8,300 hits and almost 2 dozen children joining her in a commitment to making a difference too!

Follow Laura's progress at Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference -- maybe you could post a comment about how she truly is making a difference! It might make you both feel good.